Feds File Controversial New Predator Hunting Regulations, Effective July 9

Last month, the Trump Administration announced intentions to reverse prior protection contingencies for hunting bears and wolves (plus regulations for hunting swimming caribou) on federal land – it will have a major impact in Alaska – that went into effect under 2015 Obama Administration protections. Today the feds officially posted the new regulations that will go into effect on July 9. Here’s a portion of that announcement:

Since early 2017, several actions have occurred which lead the NPS to reconsider portions of the 2015 rule that affect hunting and trapping opportunities on Alaska preserves and contradict State harvest regulations and wildlife management decisions. On March 2, 2017, Secretary Zinke signed Secretary’s Order 3347, Conservation Stewardship and Outdoor Recreation, in order to “enhance conservation stewardship, increase outdoor recreation, and improve the management of game species and their habitat.” On September 15, 2017, Secretary Zinke signed Secretary’s Order 3356, Hunting, Fishing, Recreational Shooting, and Wildlife Conservation Opportunities and Coordination with State, Tribes, and Territories, to “enhance and expand upon Secretary’s Order 3347 and further implement the recommendations provided by the Secretary.” On September 10, 2018, Secretary Zinke issued a memorandum to the heads of Department of the Interior bureaus recognizing States as the first-line authorities for fish and wildlife management and expressing a commitment to defer to States in this regard except as otherwise required by Federal law. The memorandum further directed agencies to review all regulations, policies, and guidance pertaining to fish and wildlife conservation and management, specifically provisions that are more restrictive than otherwise applicable State provisions.

Additionally, on April 3, 2017, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule for Alaska National Wildlife Refuges that was nearly identical in substance to the aspects of the 2015 Rule at issue in this rulemaking was repealed under the authority of the Congressional Review Act. See Public Law 115-20, 131 Stat. 86. House and Senate sponsors of the law strongly criticized those aspects of the NPS’s 2015 Rule, e.g.,163 Cong. Rec. H1260 (Feb. 16, 2017), S1864-69 (Mar. 21, 2017), but acknowledged that repeal through the Congressional Review Act was time-barred, id. at S1868 (remarks of Sen. Murkowski). With the passage of a joint resolution of disapproval, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cannot promulgate substantially similar regulations until specifically authorized by law. 5 U.S.C. 801(b)(2). While refuges operate under different frameworks than national preserves, this action by Congress was taken into account when interpreting consistency with the authorities and principles that were common to both rulemakings, including statutory requirements for wildlife management activities to be carried out under State law, as well as in considering how to complement regulations on surrounding lands and waters to the extent legally practicable.

Here are a few more details from the Anchorage Daily News:

Alaska leaders last month joined hunting groups in saying the changes align state and federal law. The rule stems from orders from former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in 2017 and a memorandum recognizing states as the leading authorities for fish and wildlife management.

“This rule complements state regulations by more closely aligning harvest opportunities in national preserves with harvest opportunities on surrounding lands,” the park service said in the Federal Register on Tuesday. …

The Defenders of Wildlife called the rules a “new low” for the Trump administration that will allow “barbaric and inhumane” killing of bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens. The group asserted that the state wants to increase game populations by driving down carnivore numbers.